A case for sad stories: ‘The Fault in our Stars’ effect


I was inspired to explore the reasons behind why I (and millions of others) are drawn towards ‘sad’ novels after reading a facebook status update from John Green, the author of The Fault in Our Stars. Here it is:

Sad day, man. I never really understood how sad the book is until now. Why did I make it so sad? Why have so many people read it? #tfiosmovie #tfios

If you don’t already ‘like’ him on facebook, you probably should.  He really has some lovely things to say and gives TFIOS fans a behind the scenes look at the adaptation of his book.  They are currently filming in Pittsburgh.

I can’t answer the first question.  Why did I make it so sad?  Only the writer can answer that.  I am certain that he has felt enough emotion or sadness in his life to convey such strong feelings through his writing and in such a courageous way.

I do agree with his statement that the book is incredibly sad.  If you haven’t heard of it or read it here’s the one sentence description from his website:

The Fault in Our Stars is the story of Hazel Lancaster and Augustus Waters, two Indianapolis teenagers who meet at a Cancer Kid Support Group.

Yes, the ultimate of sad story lines.  Kids with cancer.  To be rivaled only by stories wherein beloved pets die.  (Why do authors do that shit?  That’s just torture.)

After reading it, I had to tell everyone how much I adored it and of course that they HAD to read it.  But that came with a giant disclaimer.  This book will rip your heart out.  Then I would have to explain myself after getting weird looks.  And it did rip my heart out, but only in the best way possible.  I’m officially coining the term for what happened to me after I read it: The Fault in our Stars effect. I was flooded with IMMENSE gratitude.

Yes, I had a 10 minute sobfest.  I texted my boyfriend something gushy and weird and I’m pretty sure he responded with you just finished that sad book you keep talking about, didn’t you?  And I had.  After finishing up a good cry, I was struck by how lucky I am.  How wonderful life is.  I have my health.  I have fantastic people in my life.  The book made me see these things I sometimes take for granted in perfect focus.  Yes, TFIOS effect.

This is one of the reasons why I love a sad story.  But that’s not all.  Sometimes I read for a good escape, but that’s not the magical part of reading.  It’s magic when the author says something that truly resonates inside of you and you think yes, you really get it.  John Green really gets it.  All the while capturing the beautiful innocence of first love.  There’s some fantastic dark humor in there too, which I think is particularly important to keep the reader laughing through their tears.

It is a privilege to share something so beautiful with other readers, read their comments and think that maybe we have all collectively divided our sadnesses.

This is my case for sad stories.  Read them.  I beg of you.  Start here with TFIOS.  You may see things in a different light or find comfort.  You will probably cry.  Don’t read in a public space, just to be safe.